Poland’s ruling conservative party had hoped to make migration a key campaign issue ahead of the country’s national elections. But not like this – with arrests, dismissals and a suicide attempt within their own ranks.
The Law and Justice party has been rocked by reports that Polish consulates issued visas in Africa and Asia in exchange for bribes, opening the door to the European Union for immigrants who some wanted to use as a route to the United States.
A month before parliamentary elections scheduled for October 15, details of the corruption scandal are emerging, leaving the judiciary and the Justice Ministry struggling to control the damage.
A former deputy secretary of state who was fired after information emerged about his involvement in the conspiracy has been hospitalized after an apparent suicide attempt.
Law and Justice was the party’s favorite in a multiparty election, and it is unclear whether the issue will dent its support. But opposition politicians have seized on the “visa issue” to accuse the government of corruption and hypocrisy given its strong anti-immigrant rhetoric.
Critics claimed the ruling party raised the specter of immigration to scare Poles and then promised to ensure their safety, while a corrupt cell operating in the diplomatic corps opened a channel for migrants to enter the EU.
“This is the biggest scandal we have faced in the 21st century. Corruption at the highest levels of government, which poses a direct threat to us all. And that is because of the people who stuff phrases about security into their mouths,” said Senate President Tomasz Grodzki, an opposition politician, in a televised address to the nation on Friday evening.
Poland has opened its doors to Ukrainian refugees, who are mostly white and Christians, but ruling party officials have long made clear that they have traditionally viewed Muslims and other people of other religions or ethnicities as a threat to cultural identity and security their country consider Catholic nation.
Media reported that since 2021, Polish consular departments have issued around 250,000 visas to immigrants from Asia and Africa in exchange for bribes amounting to several thousand dollars each. Poland is a member of the EU’s visa-free zone known as the Schengen area, and once these migrants arrived in Poland, they were able to freely cross Europe’s borders.
Szymon Holownia, leader of a center-right opposition party, said the ruling party had “endangered the security of millions of Poles by using the disgusting business practice of selling visas.”
Government officials acknowledge that there have been some irregularities.